The Joup Friday Album: Mercury Rev ‘See You On The Other Side’

Othersidemercuryrev ‘Empire State (Son House in Excelsis)’ transports me to a gold and frozen 70s New York Morning. Like the intro to some film that doesn’t exist, the staccato piano stabs and underlying atmospherics serve as a sun-dappled Hudson, before the drums, bulbous bass and fluttering flutes summon-up some 16mm Manhattan panorama, speeding up, slowing down, growing in stature as though to pencil-in the enormity of it all. Horns come blasting-in after the 4:15 mark in a staggering pantomime of car horns, dizzying buildings, swelling and spinning until everything accelerates into chaos like the throng of vehicular and human traffic on the streets below. ‘Young Man’s Stride’ bids a final farewell to the galloping jams that made up much of 93’s exhilarating ‘Boces’, while also reminding you of just how much of a dry run that album was for this one, but while ‘Boces’ sounds like an extraordinary rock record, ‘See You On The Other Side’ evolves into something transcendent – it’s texture more deftly crafted but with organic and otherworldly results; muted and drunken trumpets, lilting wind instruments, wailing soul singers, an idealised, pharmaceutically-enhanced vision of the world’s capital city.

Recorded by producer Dave Fridmann the same year as The Flaming Lips’ (with whom Mercury Reverend Johnathan Donahue was once member) incredible but still derivative ‘Clouds Taste Metallic’, Mercury Rev were arguably faster breaking more experimental ground. Two years later Fridmann would concurrently record the Flaming Lips’ ‘Soft Bulletin’, and Mercury Rev’s ‘Deserters Songs’, the defining moments in both bands catalogues. For this listener, Mercury Rev stumbled beyond this point, recording the assured, but on closer examination flawed ‘All Is Dream’, before departing for a fairy tale inflected whimsy on their last two albums that seemed so trite that I have to admit to never having bothered to dignify them with a listen.

‘See You On The Other Side’ has somehow been lost between the distorted, psychedelic-tinged guitar based brilliance of ‘Yerself Is Steam’ and ‘Boces’, and understandably overshadowed by the ephemeral sounds born out of a rehab-cabin in the Catskills and committed to 35mm magnetic tape on the humbly sublime and unshakable albatross that is ‘Deserter’s Songs’, but is deserving of far greater praise than it gets from a very vociferous minority.

As always, if you like what you hear buy it. On vinyl preferably, for the fur-collared coat wearing bohemian ghosts of a long since sanitised and gentrified Empire State to cut their cocaine on.

Tommy, it always seems unfair to nominate you given how much you do, but if you will be so consistently interesting…

Chester Whelks

Chester Whelks

Chester Whelks is a peripheral figure on the fringes of existence. Predominantly bothering the local music scene of his native Manchester, England, he has a very finely attuned Justice-button, and knows how to call a spade a ‘Multi-Purpose Murder/Concealment Device’.

2 Responses to The Joup Friday Album: Mercury Rev ‘See You On The Other Side’
  1. Tommy Reply

    Love, love, love Mercury Rev despite the lackluster later records, which to be honest, still have their moments. Sonically, “See You on the Other Side” feels like the warm up before “Deserter’s Songs,” though lighter thematically. Good selection man!

  2. Shawn C. Baker Reply

    I so missed the boat with this band. Other than any potential extraneous background listening done at gatherings I have never even heard them. Apparently I am going to have to change that – hitting… play… now.

    Thank you good sir!

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